PureInsight | September 15, 2003
[PureInsight.org]In the past year on Clear Wisdom and Minghui, several articles have appeared that attempt to show the Book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse) refers to events occurring now in Mainland China. Despite the fact that the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Christian New Testament, is a wholly Christian inspired work, several passages have been interpreted to explain Fa-rectification events. For example, it is often stated that the 10-horned-7 headed beast with "a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words" (Rev., 13, 5) is Jiang Zemin. In the early days of Christianity, it was widely thought that this beast must be the Roman Emperor Nero, a despot gone mad, who was said to have allowed Rome to be burned. Others claim that the the beast was Napoleon or Hitler.
These notions all share a common methodology of finding some plausible link between a living person and the beast characterized in the sacred text. But how does one establish that a correspondence is true and the others are false? Just because a link is reasonable and plausible does not require us to regard it as the truth. This approach that is being taken to the text, i.e., certain correspondences are hypothesized and then it is concluded that such and such a passage means this and so—is widespread with many practitioners. The "correspondence" method of interpretation, as I am going to call it, has serious problems, the most serious of which is that when it is used alone without the aid of several methods that I am going to expound upon in this article, it is not, I feel, consistent with the Fa. This method of "correspondence," alone, can only lead to shallow understandings, is deeply flawed and cannot lead to certainty of Truth. I am not going to say much about my own understandings of the text as tempting as that may be. From my previous spiritual paths, I learned a great deal about this book and these revelations were generally not based on this method of correspondences. However, as a Falun Dafa practitioner, I have let go of those mindsets from my past, and I have a strong wish not to relive them again. The purpose of this article is rather (1) to identify the flawed methodology adopted by those who wish to interpret the Apocalypse in terms of the contemporary Fa-rectification, and (2) to make a case for a more Taoist approach—one that works out of the Fa. There are certain prerequisites for interpreting an esoteric text such as St. John's Apocalypse, and I will endeavor to state them here.
Secret Meanings: today and in ancient days
A sacred text like the Apocalypse contains hidden (esoteric) meanings. For instance, it refers to seven "seals", which means the meaning is kept ("sealed") from everyday people's knowledge. Nowadays, we don't conceal heavenly secrets in the same way. Zhuan Falun is filled with heavenly secrets, but from my experience, no one who is not supposed to know will read it. It goes unread unless one can get past the barriers of materialism and other postnatal notions, and in the case of China, the propaganda of the Government. For example, once at my workplace I was clarifying the truth about Falun Gong to a Chinese person from the Mainland and happened to have in my hands at the time, a Chinese version of Zhuan Falun to explain something. He would not look at the book. At the time, I was amazed at his intolerance. Whereas something like this would even been at least a curiosity to me before I became a practitioner, he steadfastly refused to even open the book. Another experience of mine: when I gave the book to my then 24-year-old son, he barely read any of it and immediately gave it away.
Today, people self-select what they will allow themselves to believe. It takes deep faith to read and accept the teachings of any sacred text because most of it cannot be "proved" by the canons of modern scientific methodology, which only accepts what it can see in the material world and fits in with the notions of the day (see LunYu of Zhuan Falun). The Teacher sometimes points out how difficult it is for people to accept the descriptions in Zhuan Falun because people's understanding of God (s) is now in a weakened state and there is little moral restraint on people. Consequently, people today cannot believe beyond what their physical eyes reveal. Moreover, if someone is told something from a higher level than the person can enlighten to, he won't believe it:
"A practitioner whose cultivation has reached a particular level can only see manifestations at that level. He is unable to see the truth beyond that level, and neither will he believe it." (From Lecture Two, Zhuan Falun )
Compare today's heavy skepticism and doubt with earlier periods. In ancient times, these "heavenly secrets" were never made public in the way Li Hongzhi made Dafa public. An initiate could be executed for revealing what was taught in the esoteric schools. However, there wasn't the same skepticism of the spirit world as there is now. People had an instinctive sense of Gods and felt restrained in some ways. Consequently, measures were felt necessary to restrict access to symbols and sacred writings, which were revealed to only chosen persons. In the West, the Mysteries were only open to the few, called Initiates. In order to understand a sacred text like the Apocalypse, the reader had to raise himself to a higher level than the material world. Then he would "see" through the symbolism and understand the true meaning. In antiquity, only someone at the lowest level of "inborn quality" would resort to the method of "correspondences," as I refer to it, when interpreting a sacred text and such persons were not the Initiates.
In interpreting symbols and verses from a sacred text, a rational person will demand that any particular interpretation will fit within an overall comprehensive perspective of the phenomena. Since the Book of Revelation is manifestly Christian, inspired by no less than Jesus Christ (Rev., 1, 1-2), it would have to be consistent with known truths of Christianity. John has occult abilities as well. He stated in the opening page of the Apocalypse (Rev., 4, 9) that he is writing the book "in the Spirit." Jesus Christ had previously given him the task to lead this aspect of Christianity, i.e. , the esoteric side of Christianity. Turn to the other book that St. John wrote for posterity, the Gospel of St. John. In the last chapter, 21, the Risen Christ is having a conversation with Peter. Jesus implores Peter to "feed my sheep", three times, and meaning, "found my Church." He was formally given that task when Jesus was alive (Mathew, 16, 16-19).
As they are walking along the beach, Peter asks the Risen Christ, about John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved." This phrase is used repeatedly in this Gospel and so there must be a particular meaning behind it. It's clear that Jesus has a special mission for John by this phrase, "the disciple that Jesus loved." Peter asks, "Lord, what about this man?" According to the Gospel, Jesus responded, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?" (John, 21, 21) He seems to be telling Peter to worry about the exoteric Church that has lasted and flourished to this day, but not concern himself with the esoteric Church. The latter has a rich history with the Gnostics, the Templars, the Grail Knights, the Cathars, some Rosicrucians and so on. Note that allusion is also made here to Christ Second Coming and the time when the exoteric Church of Peter (i.e., the present day Catholic Church of Rome) is exalted and illuminated by the esoteric "Church" of John. I think the passage is rendered fairly clear with this interpretation and this interpretation is also consistent with other knowledge we have about the esoteric stream from Initiates that I can't go into in this paper. So, in order to understand John and what he was trying to say in the Apocalypse we need to appreciate some things about him and the mission of "the disciple that the Lord loved." I think it violates our reason and good sense to interpret a text in a narrow and selective way. Comprehensive requires that to feel confident that an interpretation is correct, we want it to be compatible and consistent with our overall understanding of Christianity. Thus, with the Book of Revelation, we want to see how it all fits together, and comprehend the main ideas contained in it.
I am puzzled, therefore, how practitioners can claim the 10-horned, 7-headed beast as the previous head of the government of China, without at the same time feeling any need to account for the other beast (the so-called "anti-Christ") in the same chapter (Rev., 13,11-18) whose identity is not problematic for them. If Jiang is the first beast, who is the second beast and what role does the second beast have? Should we just ignore him since his appearance is not convenient for our interpretation? I think we all feel a little uneasy when we fail to understand something in a comprehensive way, whether we are practitioners or everyday people. Also, a precious opportunity is missed to confirm one's first identification of a beast by the complementary identification of the second beast.
Additionally, any interpretation should consider the Second Coming of Christ (Rev., 21, 6, 12, 20), a major event in Christianity, as that is fairly explicit in the document. Is this important? What do you think? Let's look further. A very special passage in the Book of Revelation states:
And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent in heaven; behold a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads…And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his thrown, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for 1,260 days.
Now a war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought but they were defeated and there was no place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the evil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Rev., 12, 1-9)
What does this passage mean? Do you think it might be important? Let me tell you that Initiates of Christianity have deemed this passage highly important and key to understanding the document. Who is this woman goddess? And who is Michael? What child was trying to come to birth that the evil dragon wants to prevent? To understand this passage one must first be cognizant of the Christian meaning. Just as Master refers to a Buddha school and Taoist school, which encompasses everything, so within the Christian esotericism, there is a Michael school though, of course, it is subordinate to one of the main "schools." I don't see how anyone can begin to understand the Book of Revelation without some understanding of who Michael is and his relationship to the Christ Being.
What about other passages in the Apocalypse? Some concepts are repeatedly mentioned: the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven vials of wrath, seven angels, the Lamb, the four horsemen, the (two-horned) beast and the false prophet, the New Jerusalem, and the Alpha and the Omega. We ought not to be selective and explain only what is convenient and fits in with our private notions. To do justice to this document we must "explain" the main outlines and concepts. Otherwise, a highly selective interpretation cannot be trusted.
How then can one properly interpret a sacred text like the Book of Revelation? The approach needed is spelled out in Mathew:
"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened." (Mathew, 7, 7-8)
This passage is very beautiful and typically Christian in tone. It embraces the Fa from a Christian standpoint, if I may say so. It is basically explaining the need for restraint and patient waiting (for the door to open) when approaching esoteric matters. Teacher has explained this principle too and, I believe, expanded upon it some as Ren, a fundamental characteristic of the Universe, and in particular about the practitioner's requirement of not pursuing supernormal abilities.
The same "patient waiting" method is used again in the Book of Revelation. A Being who is very likely, from the context, the Risen Christ speaks:
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Rev., 3, 20)
A few lines later, and behold, John says:
"After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door!" (Rev. 4, 1)
Now let's apply the "method" given to Christians by their savior.
Think of Book of Revelation like a palace with many rooms and levels. In order to be invited into the palace, and get past the front door, you need a "key" or an invitation. In each of the "rooms", again you need a key. In order to go higher in this world, you have to be found worthy. This is precisely stated in the Book of Revelation (Rev., 5, 2-4). (In Falun Dafa, we say one must meet the standard of that world in order for restrictions to be lifted.) May I suggest that using the method of correspondences--linking symbols in the text with convenient answers-- is trying to force one's way into the palace, that is, into the (Christian) Mysteries? Following the advice from Mathew above, the method of force is not the way to get in! As practitioners, we adopt the method of benevolence for all occasions and hence eschew the method of force as well.
The Book of Revelation was written by Jesus' greatest disciple, John, the only one of the disciples who had the courage to remain at the side of his master at the foot of the cross. He is also the only writer in the New Testament to make reference to the Fa (the Logos), although what level he understood it, I wouldn't venture to guess. The Apocalypse was written under the inspiration of Jesus Christ by a Christian initiate for a Christian audience (Rev., 1,2). It is highly unlikely that John's clairvoyance had any conscious knowledge of the Fa-rectification of the cosmos that is occurring now, a period of two thousand years having elapsed since John wrote this text. In order to penetrate the mysteries of this document, you have to at least be allowed, "invited" as it were, into the Mysteries of Christianity or else you are left employing the unreliable method of correspondences. One needs a key in order to enter the palace.
What then is the key to this document? I have neither the time nor inclination to summarize the works of Christian initiates that held keys to the Apocalypse. Let me just touch on a couple of things. In the Book of Revelation, reference is always being made to the number seven. For example, the seven Stars, the seven Golden Candlesticks, and the seven Spirits of God. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) explained what each of these means using his own cosmology. I only want to point out the key to this document in the broadest sense is the number seven. (In Falun Dafa, we use the number 9, the highest number in the Universe as our "key," although 10 seems to figure prominently as well.) The Old Testament, the holy book of the Jews also uses the number 7 in crucial places, e.g., the number of days of creation in the Book of Moses. In this Christian scripture, to a lesser extent, the number 12 is referenced too, such as the 24 elders. Now, let's thinks about this. Number 7 and number 12 really summarize the time-spatial dimension that the Christian world evolves around, what we know of as the Three Realms. Seven is a number for time, such as the seven days of the week (also, according to The Old Testament, and the Jewish Torah, the number of "days" it took for the Creator to make the earth and the seas, life and mankind, and the stars), and 12 is a spatial concept, for the 12 constellations in the firmament, 12 disciples, 12 Holy days between Christmas and Epiphany, etc.
The purpose of this article is not to give the key to the document, but only to state that it must have one. The number 7 is part of the key. The number of the Beast, 666, for example, has a special meaning when interpreted under a numerical system of 7. Our number system uses 10 as it base. After one counts to 9, the next number is signified by a one in the second column, and the digits column assumes a zero (i.e., 10). A number system based on a base of seven makes the second column become a one when a unit is added to six, which equals 7 ("10"). Many computer literate people are familiar with a number system based on the base of two. It consists of nothing but ones and zeroes. The key, the deeper meaning of the number of the Beast, to 666, is based on a number system with 7 as its base. When one reaches 49 in our number system (base 10), the number is "100" in the number system, base 7. The number 666 to the base 7 is 342 to the base 10. Except for mentioning the definition of an historic age or era in a later section of this paper, I do not wish to discuss this "key" fact further here, but anyone who can appreciate that the one of the keys to the Book of Revelation is the number 7 will want to incorporate this key to unlock the mysteries of time, of cycles of time and grand epochs to comprehend what is being taught in the document, especially when it refers to "666."
When the KEY is left out of an interpretation, is the explanation of the meaning worthless then? I am not saying that. Certainly, without incorporating the key, one must be circumspect. However, there can be value in interpretations even when the interpreter doesn't have or even claim to have the key. For example, let us consider again the number of the Beast, 666. Many people have suggested the particular meaning to the years that are multiples of 666. These years in our era are, 666 AD, 1332 AD and 1998 AD. Christianity indeed underwent crises in the years circa 666 and circa 1332. We all just lived through crises of the end of the millennium (circa 1998). Many sources cite the expectation that the two-horned beast (the so-called Anti-Christ) (Rev., 13, 11) would be born in 1998, etc. Are these wrong? They are based on the Gregorian calendar, which uses a number system based on 10, and not based on 7. These were critical dates in the history of Christianity. They are true to a degree, and hence the number of the beast still attains power even in our "normal" number system, based on 10. But the difference is that the effect is much weaker since this is merely a derived meaning. It does not make use of the key! (I could add, that it does not make use of an essential component of the key, namely, not to use force.)
Another important example cited by practitioners: the 42-month period of exercising authority of the 10-horned, 7-headed beast predicted in the Apocalypse (Rev., 13,5). Note that 42 months is a multiple of 7. Also, 42 months is three and half years, a number that is one half of 7. This 42-month period undoubtedly has special meaning in the Christian cosmology. Does it apply to the end of the persecution? Yes and No. The persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners in China is not key to the Christian document, but there is a derived meaning and power to the number. In a way, it will apply in a weaker sense to this situation. This is consistent with remarks made by Master Li who refused to endorse the number or deny it, but acknowledges that the 42-months has meaning at some level. This is why he can say that such predictions are meant for "reference purposes." Master makes this terminology in regard to Nostradamus' prophecy of the persecution of Falun Dafa ("In Reference to a Prophecy," June 28, 2000). He apparently holds back in the meaning of the correspondence, but acknowledges it is true in this derived sense, i.e., without claiming to be "key."
In addition, the 42-month period is apparently weakened by Master's comment in the July 21, 2001 lecture in Washington, D.C. where he referred to the period of time for the earth Fa-rectification as a 20-year period, divided into two segments, 10 years long. While that plan has been modified, it is important to note that the original plan did not apparently fulfill in any sense the "Christian" key of the number seven. The old forces' plan had used 10. I think this fact should make practitioners more circumspect about loosely interpreting the 42-month period.
The following section of this paper is of much less interest to Dafa practitioners because we cultivate an enormous cosmos, and so the kinds of considerations that I am speaking about next, namely cultural events on earth which are of great concern to Christians, may have little or no relevance to a practitioner.
Confirmation by Independent Discovery by Human Initiates
Something that was very convincing to me was when Initiates speak of the importance of a time period when the sun enters a new sign of the zodiac. The whole tone of the era, if you will, is colored by that sign. Our age began around 1412 and we can see that soon after that in the 1500s, the Middle Ages ended, science began, and the hold that religions held began to decline. So, it is commonly said that we live in the Piscean age. The next age is the Aquarian age. Before the Piscean, it was the Aries time, and Christ symbolized the era by being the Lamb (the Ram). The two books, the Old Testament and the New were written in two different ages. That is obvious from even a casual reading of the scriptures. These "ages" figured prominently in the counting system of the Book of Revelation alluded to earlier and determine the number of the Beast. The average time for the sun to makes its way through a sign is 2,160 years. You will note in the passage above regarding the dragon and Michael that 1,260 years is mentioned. A Christian Initiate (Rudolf Steiner) declared that the first two digits were a "misprint" and over time had become transposed. He knew this was true because he could independently verify this for himself. I use this as an example of how to properly approach a sacred text. To interpret it with authority you need to have abilities to "see" independently and then you can look for confirmation and confidently explain a sacred text and even correct errors in that text. Similarly, our efforts to identify symbols and actions in the Book of Revelation require that we must have supernormal abilities and can make use of these in a manner that respects the sacred (i.e., not using force, requiring a comprehensive perspective, discovery by the Key, and so on).
The Christian Prophecy Disrupted by the Fa-rectification
The work that was done by Christian initiates and transmitted secretly to their disciples was based on the temporal-spatial world pre-1992 when Master Li Hongzhi began teaching the Fa. St. John's Book of Revelation is based upon that temporal-spatial world. What then happened to time as a result of the purification of the universe? Master Li said in the North American Tour (March 2002):
"It's not too bad in this human dimension—it's only been ten-plus years since Fa-rectification began, and it's only been two-plus years since July 20th of 1999, spanning four calendar years, and my Fa-rectification has only been ten-plus years. Think about it, isn't that fast? It's actually very fast—all of this is done in the time it takes for a wave of the hand, and the difference in time manifest in the human dimension is more than ten years. What's more, the overall time of the cosmos has been pushed faster since Fa-rectification began. Before July of 1999, what used to be one second was one whole day. Even now it's still speeding up. What used to be about one second is one whole year now—and this is only an average figure, and it's still accelerating."
What does this acceleration of time described by the Teacher mean for St John's prophecies? Does it affect it or did St. John take the Fa-rectification into account? It was impossible for any Christian to know this event would take place since its source is outside the Three Realms. It would appear that the timeline described by the best and most earnest of Christian Initiates would be mistaken since a momentous event has taken place outside their temporal-spatial framework. The "ages" that I spoke of and figure prominently in the number of the Beast and so on, are not valid anymore. Well, you may answer, won't the time be the same for the sun to cross the zodiac? I don't claim to have the answers but the following quote from Master Li makes me believe that probably the entire Christian eschatology will have to be scrapped. Note Master's statement in Philadelphia (November 30, 2002), which I acknowledge is a little out of context:
"Maybe mankind can't understand what I'm saying. But when mankind sees the display of the cosmos's planets going through re-creation arrive at the surface of our Milky Way, then they'll believe everything."
The Christian Prophecies are Irrelevant for the Fa-Rectification
On several occasions, Master has spoken on how the current humanity is quite different from humans in previous times. Those who are were human in the past are largely not able to incarnate at this time while high level beings leave their heavenly abodes and descend to earth to participate in the Fa-rectification in one way or another. When one thinks back to the John as the only disciple to be present at his master's crucifixion and recalls the cowardice of Peter (the "rock" that Christ depended upon to build his Church!), who denies his association with Christ three times in the same night (before the cock crows as Jesus had predicted), we realize that this stream of mankind was much weaker than our own. It was only after Christ resurrection and their apprehension of the change in their hearts at Pentecost that the faith was injected with power and it could go on and become the main religion of the Western World. Without the resurrection as Paul said, who would have believed Jesus was who he said he was?
By contrast, Falun Gong disciples, with few exceptions, have not abandoned Teacher or the Fa and have behaved themselves in a manner that is, in the words, of Teacher, "magnificent." Our understanding does not require a resurrection as we understand the basis of life and death in a deeper way than was possible in Jesus' time. What do Falun Gong practitioners have in common with the 12 disciples who were quite weak and had always (with the exception of John) had a poor comprehension of the spirit? Jesus' three leading disciples "fall asleep" when He is revealing his divine nature to them ("The Transfiguration" see Mark, 9,2-8; especially Luke, 9, 29-36). He always had to speak in parables--simple stories--to make his listeners change their hearts and catch a glimpse of their true spiritual home. It was still worse in the time of Moses and the Hebrews when their prophet came down from Mt. Sinai after receiving the 10 Commandments from Yahweh and was horrified to see the "children" of Israel worshipping a calf! By comparison to Dafa practitioners, the earlier humanity are like hapless children. Therefore, it is hard for me to see the relevance of Christian prophecies except perhaps in the sense of "derived meanings" that was explained earlier in this paper. However, these "derived meanings" are not key for understanding the Fa-rectification, and so less significance should be attached to them.
Teacher's statement at the New York Fa Conference of April 2003: old prophecies are not accurate now
Finally, we have an explanation about the function of old prophecies when Master spoke, recently, at the New York Fa conference. Someone asked him if it was alright to speak about the future in terms that would "...shock the world's people." His immediate response was to explain that the objective above all is to save sentient beings. Shocking them can be done by Dafa disciples if it is done "...strategically and with wisdom." The idea is to shock the evil, regardless of whether the prophecies are accurate or not "...warn and wake up the world's people." At this late stage the emphasis needs to be on saving people by encouraging them to learn from past lessons in history. The important idea to take away from Master's answer was that these prophecies, like the Book of Revelation, are for the benefit of ordinary people, for waking them up. Dafa disciples, he warns, "They aren't for Dafa disciples to use them as references in their own cultivation!" The reason he explains is that they are now largely inaccurate, and that new arrangements have been made that supercede them.
"... it doesn't count anymore. Whatever anyone has seen is from the past and has already changed. Even if a few events happen to be the same, those were only arranged as needed by the overall arrangement, that's all." (From "Lecturing on and Explaining the Fa at the Metropolitan New York Fa Conference," April 20, 2003)
Conclusion. Master's statement above is consistent with the argument made in this paper that the Christian prophecies are irrelevant to Fa-rectification. Master allowed their use only because of their value in combating the persecution. Teacher makes clear that Dafa disciples are creating the future, and shouldn't follow old prophecies, but do things according to the Fa.
My understanding is that Master's recent statements in New York are also implying that the research conducted by practitioners on the Book of Revelation is erroneous. The first part of this paper attempted to explain that the reason for this is because the methodology adopted was too far removed from the Tao, and lacked a "key" to the document. I suggest that the method required needed to be more compatible with the source of esotericism of Christianity.